Did John McCain Almost Bankrupt Arizona With His Electric Cars?

041702b.thumbnail.jpgJohn McCain is up to his neck in the shenanigans behind the Great Financial Crisis of 2008; did you know that he played a role in almost bankrupting Arizona too?

Back in 2000, Arizona came within a whisker of financial collapse and bankruptcy. The cause was a corrupt state Alternative Fuels Program engineered by McCain’s best friend and political protege, Jeff Groscost, then speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. That program turned

…what was supposed to be a modest $3 million initiative to encourage the use of alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) into a half-billion-dollar boondoggle that nearly bankrupted the state and earned it national belly laughs.

Not only was Groscost manager of McCain’s 2000 Arizona Presidential Campaign, the boondoggle legislation was the fruit of McCain’s 2000 Campaign:

Groscost, who has been a paid political consultant to presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, said the campaign was frustrated when it could not find an alternative-fuel vehicle.

Yesterday Newsweek reported that, along with his ten other cars, John McCain owns "three 2000 NEV Gem electric vehicles."

In Arizona, most NEV Gem electric cars are 2000 models sold under the Alternative Fuels program that nearly bankrupted the state. Curiously, John McCain owns three of them. Did he capitalize on the boondoggle his protege crafted to have the taxpayers of Arizona heavily subsidize three new cars?

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

John McCain Still Living The Keating Five Lush Highlife

John McCain was never the principled steadfast man his false front public image painted him to be; although it is true that he really has been in a downward spiral of dishonor and deception during this year’s campaign. Even many of his staunchest supporters in major media are starting to realize the brutal truth for what it is. Joe Klein, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, a host of journalists at ABC, Andrew Sullivan … each day brings a familiar voice admitting that they can no longer harmonize the McCain persona with the truth in front of them. Thank you to each and every one of them, and welcome to my world. As a native Arizonan I have been witnessing what you are now realizing since John McCain plopped his carpet bag down and set up shop here in our state.

John Sidney McCain III would have you believe his Charlie Keating Five Scandal days of corruption and influence peddling are all a thing of his distant past and that he is some sort of legendary reformer now. Nothing could be further from the truth, he is still hard deeply entrenched in the lavish, exotic trappings of swag and influence peddled by the modern day equivalents of Charlie Keating.

In fact, new reporting by Ari Berman and Mark Ames of The Nation, in their article The McCain-Follieri Love Boat, which just hit the presses at the end of last week details how McCain has spent yet another birthday, his 70th, vacationing with a criminal con artist, Hollywood celebrities and big money lobbyists on a yacht in Montenegro. It shows what Arizonans have known all along: McCain is still the same old glad handing, do anything to serve his own raw ambition, politician who celebrated his birthdays with Charlie Keating and other power brokers at Keating’s private Bahamas resort two decades ago.

Before we delve into the recent foray of John Sidney McCain III into political influence swag land, a refresher on McCain’s malfeasance in the Keating Five Savings & Loan Scandal is in order. From a Keating Five Scandal retrospective by The Arizona Republic:

McCain already knew Keating well. His ties to the home builder dated to 1981, when the two men met at a Navy League dinner where McCain spoke.

After the speech, Keating walked up to McCain and told him that he, too, was a Navy flier and that he greatly respected McCain’s war record. He met McCain’s wife and family. The two men became friends.

Charlie Keating always took care of his friends, especially those in politics. McCain was no exception.

In 1982, during McCain’s first run for the House, Keating held a fund-raiser for him, collecting more than $11,000 from 40 employees of American Continental Corp. McCain would spend more than $550,000 to win the primary and the general election.

In 1983, as McCain contemplated his House re-election, Keating hosted a $1,000-a-plate dinner for him, even though McCain had no serious competition. When McCain pushed for the Senate in 1986, Keating was there with more than $50,000.

By 1987, McCain had received about $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates.

McCain also had carried a little water for Keating in Washington. While in the House, McCain, along with a majority of representatives, co-sponsored a resolution to delay new regulations designed to curb risky investments by thrifts such as Lincoln.

The first meeting, on April 2, 1987, in DeConcini’s office, included Ed Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Read more

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

What Would Scott McClellan Say…

About Murray Waas’ latest, in which he reports that Karl Rove had several people claim he was not involved in potentially criminal behavior, even though he had been?

While a central focus for investigators apparently has been the role played by aides to Rove in the Griffin matter, some witnesses to the investigation told me that they have been asked specifically about Rove’s own personal efforts.

Two former senior Justice Department officials, former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and principal Associate General William Moscella, have separately provided damaging information to the two internal investigative agencies.

Both, according to sources familiar with their still-confidential testimony, said they inadvertently gave misleading testimony to Congress about the firings of the U.S. attorneys because they were misled by Rove himself in addition to other White House figures.

In his March 6, 2007, testimony to Congress, Moscella contended that all but one U.S. attorney was fired because of issues related to their performance. When specifically asked if Rove played any role in the firings, he testified: "I don’t know that he played any role."

But one day before the congressional testimony, on March 5, 2007, McNulty and Moscella attended a strategy session at the White House in which they discussed Moscella’s testimony and how he should answer allegations that most of the U.S. attorneys were fired because of politics.

McNulty and Moscella told investigators that among the attendees were Rove and Sampson, then Gonzales’ chief of staff. Neither Rove nor Sampson, both men told investigators, told them anything about their own role in the firings even as they encouraged Moscella to say politics had nothing to do with it.

He didn’t have anything to do with outing a CIA spy … He didn’t have anything to do with placing his vote caging specialist in a big swing state … He didn’t know Jack Abramoff, either. 

I mean, you’d think some enterprising Republican would start a 12-step program, "Republicans Who Have Vouched for Karl Based on His False Representations" Anonymous.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

George Will Sums Up McCain’s “Unattractive Righteousness”

George Will, voicing the position of those (like Mitch McConnell) who don’t like getting attacked for doing things their attacker has done, captures the state of McCain’s hypocrisy regarding lobbyists and campaign finance.

First, the Times muddied, with unsubstantiated sexual innuendo about a female lobbyist, a story about McCain’s flights on jets owned by corporations with business before the Senate Commerce Committee, and his meeting with a broadcaster (McCain at first denied it happened; the broadcaster insists it did, and McCain now agrees) who sought and received McCain’s help in pressuring the Federal Communications Commission. Perhaps McCain did nothing corrupt, but he promiscuously accuses others of corruption, or the "appearance" thereof. And he insists that the appearance of corruption justifies laws criminalizing political behavior — e.g., broadcasting an electioneering communication that "refers to" a federal candidate during the McCain-Feingold blackout period close to an election.

[snip]

Although his campaign is run by lobbyists; and although his dealings with lobbyists have generated what he, when judging the behavior of others, calls corrupt appearances; and although he has profited from his manipulation of the taxpayer-funding system that is celebrated by reformers — still, he probably is innocent of insincerity. Such is his towering moral vanity, he seems sincerely to consider it theoretically impossible for him to commit the offenses of appearances that he incessantly ascribes to others.

Such certitude is, however, not merely an unattractive trait. It is disturbing righteousness in someone grasping for presidential powers.

Will adds a little detail to the dynamics of the Von Spakovsky nomination I laid out the other day. The guy who originally mobilized opposition to Von Spakovsky, Trevor Potter, is the same guy McCain will rely on to argue that–in spite of receiving benefits from his decision to accept matching funds–McCain should not be held to the requirements imposed by that decision.

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Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

The First Stage Is Denial

And then they go on to anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance that John McCain will never be President.

Christy sent along this article catching McCain’s lobbyist friends denying that their lobbying interests have any importance on the campaign.

McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm though Davis on leave from the firm at the moment. Charlie Black, an unpaid senior adviser to McCain, is chairman of the Washington lobbying firm BKSH & Associates. Both of their firms have represented telecommunications companies whose business falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Commerce Committee on which McCain is the senior Republican member.

[snip]

A McCain campaign aide who asked not to be identified said Davis has not been a registered lobbyist for two years. The aide said Black “is an unpaid volunteer and does not and will not lobby Senator McCain.”

John McCain would have you believe that lobbyists are in the business of donating their time for worthy causes, with no strings attached. And that Black’s promise not to lobby "Senator McCain" will extend to complete disinterest in policy issues that affect his clients if McCain were to be President. And that Davis’ two-year leave from lobbying with a firm he still has financial ties to somehow frees him of all interest in the success of that lobbying firm–or its clients’ interests.

This is why it’s so important to point out how false similar claims were when Bush cronies made them. Telecom lobbyist Ed Gillespie came in–refusing to recuse himself outright from issues pertaining to Quinn Gillespie’s clients. And voila, just weeks later, the Administration was awkwardly and belatedly weighing in against net neutrality. To say nothing of the fact that they’re now willing to let entire surveillance programs lapse in an effort to make sure Gillespie’s clients get immunity for having illegally wiretapped Americans.

The Bush Administration’s lobbyist-in-chief has made sure his clients’ interests take precedence over the privacy and free speech of Americans. And there’s no reason to think it would work differently with McCain’s lobbyists-in-chief.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Vicki Iseman’s Lobbying Career

I don’t mean to pick on Vicki Iseman. I just got rather fascinated by the career of this woman who–at least in 1999, when John McCain was running for President–openly boasted of her ties to McCain, the Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee (in fact, this story started from a "second-hand report from a lobbyist"). Some of her clients seem to back up that boast. Given the prevalence of media, and more recently, defense/VA contractors, in her portfolio, I imagine such boasts helped her career.

What follows relies primarily on the data available in the Senate Lobbyist Database–which only goes back to 1999. I can’t tell you what happened in the (presumably) 9 years between the time she walked into her boss’ office (I’m guessing this is Hector Alcalde) asking for a chance…

[I] walked into my boss’s office [the president of the company] and said, ‘You don’t really know me, but I answer the phones. I’m a college graduate and I’d like you to consider me for a secretarial or an administrative position.’" He agreed to try her out for three months. Within a year she became his special assistant.

… And when, in 1999, she was a partner piling up relationships with media companies.

It appears that her big breaks happened in 1998, when clients like Paxson and Sinclair first started working with her. Though it wasn’t until later 1999 that she became the lead on the Paxson account (the first lobbying report for Paxson in 1999 still lists Alcalde as the lead).

By 1999, she was the lead on accounts with a number of media companies–Paxson, Sinclair, and CanWest, which I’ve posted about, as well as AMFM Inc and Capstar (which would get absorbed into Clear Channel with her help) and Telemundo (which would get bought by NBC with her help) and Hispanic Broadcasting (which then had ties to Clear Channel, and which would get absorbed into Univision in 2003 with her help). So in 1999, when Vicki Iseman was trading on McCain’s name as he ran for President, seven of her eight major clients involved consolidating media conservative media properties.

The exception is Computer Sciences Corp–which I’m going to have to come back to, for a variety of reasons (but if you want to kibitz in the comments, please do).

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Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

McCain’s Favors for Iseman Involved Helping Far Right-Wing Families to Sustain their Shell Companies

When I noted that John McCain’s lobbyist gal had represented the two networks that would, in 2004, show the anti-Kerry propaganda piece, Stolen Honor, I admitted I didn’t know precisely whether or how John McCain had helped the second of these two networks, Sinclair Broadcasting’s shell company, Glencairn Broadcasting. Today, the NYT makes it very clear that McCain used the same kind of inappropriate, pushy tactics for Sinclair as he had with Paxson.

In late 1998, Senator John McCain sent an unusually blunt letter to the head of the Federal Communications Commission, warning that he would try to overhaul the agency if it closed a broadcast ownership loophole.

The letter, and two later ones signed by Mr. McCain, then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, urged the commission to abandon plans to close a loophole vitally important to Glencairn Ltd., a client of Vicki Iseman, a lobbyist. The provision enabled one of the nation’s largest broadcasting companies, Sinclair, to use a marketing agreement with Glencairn, a far smaller broadcaster, to get around a restriction barring single ownership of two television stations in the same city.

I gotta say, "unusually blunt," coming from Mr. Straight Talk for Lobbyists Express is saying something. The article goes on to note that McCain was partnering with Conrad Burns on this matter–some real gutter diving for a guy who claims to be above corruption.

The NYT article suggests more about the relationship between Iseman and McCain.

For its part, Glencairn appeared to have been getting little support in Congress until it retained Ms. Iseman in 1998.

Edwin Edwards, who was the president of the company at the time, said in a recent interview that after retaining Ms. Iseman, he was able to get heard by Mr. McCain.

“We were pounding the pavement in Washington,” Mr. Edwards said. “We recruited help from as many people as we could. We knocked on every door just trying to get support.”

Labaton suggests–but doesn’t say it–that companies with business interests before McCain could hire Iseman as the best way to get entre to him. Buy Vicki Iseman and you get McCain. No wonder she was bragging about her access to him. Read more

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Paxson Refreshes McCain’s Memory

Rut Roh.

Bud Paxson’s memory seems to corroborate that of McCain’s former aides and McCain’s signed deposition, both of which suggest that McCain met with Paxson–and Iseman–personally before he sent his letters to the FCC. Or, to put it another way, Paxson says McCain’s little promises yesterday were false.

Broadcaster Lowell "Bud" Paxson today contradicted statements from Sen. John McCain‘s presidential campaign that the senator did not meet with Paxson or his lobbyist before sending two controversial letters to the Federal Communications Commission on Paxson’s behalf.

Paxson said he talked with McCain in his Washington office several weeks before the Arizona Republican wrote the letters to the FCC urging a rapid decision on Paxson’s quest to acquire a Pittsburgh television station.

Paxson also recalled that his lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, attended the meeting in McCain’s office and that Iseman helped arrange the meeting. "Was Vicki there? Probably," Paxson said in an interview with The Washington Post today. "The woman was a professional. She was good. She could get us meetings."

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Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Why McCain Got a Criminal Defense Lawyer to Manage His NYT Push-Back

Bmaz sent me this article the other day, about McCain’s ham-handed attempts to pre-empt news about his wife Cindy’s struggles with addiction. I sent back this passage,

But both of Cindy McCain’s staged, teary drug-addiction confessions have been vintage John McCain. His MO is this: Get the story out — even if it’s a negative story. Get it out first, with the spin you want, with the details you want and without the details you don’t want.

McCain did it with the Keating Five, and with the story of the failure of his first marriage (Cindy is his second wife). So what you recall after the humble, honest interview, is not that McCain did favors for savings and loan failure Charlie Keating, or that he cheated on his wife, but instead what an upfront, righteous guy he is.

Candor is the McCain trademark, but what the journalists who slobber over the senator fail to realize is that the candor is premeditated and polished. [my emphasis]

… Noting how differently McCain has dealt with his Iseman problem. McCain didn’t get the story out first, not even in the three months since it became clear NYT was chasing the story. As a result, McCain’s presser yesterday was an obvious–and ineffective–attempt at cover-up, with none of the candor he affected in his previous attempts to bury his own faults. For some reason, McCain failed to head the Iseman story off when it might do some good.

This Isikoff story reveals part of the reason why McCain didn’t follow his normal MO of heading such scandals off at the pass.

Just hours after the Times’s story was posted, the McCain campaign issued a point-by-point response that depicted the letters as routine correspondence handled by his staff—and insisted that McCain had never even spoken with anybody from Paxson or Alcalde & Fay about the matter. "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC," the campaign said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

But that flat claim seems to be contradicted by an impeccable source: McCain himself. Read more

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

McCain Would Be the SECOND Lobbyist President

Christy has been doing great work exposing the lobbyists running the McCain campaign. She showed how common (in both sense of the word) it is for McCain to get in bed with lobbyists. She did a profile of what a nice guy Rick Davis is. And a post showing that the one thing that will interrupt McCain’s campaign schedule (since we know it’s not votes in the Senate) is a schmooze session in Deer Valley.

It sure raises the specter of a presidency run by lobbyists, doesn’t it?

The thing is, the notion of a presidency run by and for the lobbyists isn’t really a new thing. Consider the following highlights from the Bush Administration:

Ed Gillespie

Remember when the Administration was flailing last summer, as more and more dirt piled up on Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales? The Bush Administration brought in a person to replace both Dan Bartlett and Karl Rove to retool the Administration and try to salvage Bush’s legacy. Gillespie brought along the considerable baggage of his lobbying client list, without taking reasonable precautions to ensure he was working for the American people–and not his former clients.

Ever since Ed Gillespie became Bush’s replacement for Dan Bartlett (and after that, for Rove), I’ve been trying to track the clients of Quinn Gillespie–the firm that Gillespie co-founded. After all, Gillespie is a guy who, up until days before he took on one of the most powerful advisory roles at the White House, was a big-time lobbyist, with a broad clientele. And Gillespie has declined to recuse himself automatically from matters concerning his former clients.

Despite the potential for conflicts of interest, Gillespie won’t be forced in his new role to recuse himself from all matters related to the companies he has lobbied for, said Ken Gross, a Washington-based attorney and former associate general counsel with the Federal Election Commission.

Instead, Gillespie will have to decide on a case-by-case basis if his activities could violate federal ethics standards.

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Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.